Unconventional, non-traditional and just plain-old different. That’s what my sister was. And if gathering all together to remember her life at a sports bar isn’t testament to that, then I don’t know what is. There’s salsa music playing in the background. There’s an art station with a Forget-Me-Not painting for all to partake in. Poster board selfies and group pictures to help everyone go down memory lane. And no prayer cards here to hand out. Instead, you have a biography pamphlet the likes of a Playbill as your keepsake. Unconventional to say the least.
My relationship with Nitza was no different either. Even before I came in to this world she had made me an aunt. My only sister was 19 years older than me and hence began our awkward trip into siblinghood. We encountered some of the stereotypical ordeals many siblings go through. She’d yell at me when I’d touch any of her belongings. As the older sibling, she always thought she knew better. She’d give me orders and I would ignore them. And she’d try to pin our mom against me, all to win an argument and reign proudly as the firstborn. My most “traumatic” sibling rivalry memory?… I was 13 years old and I was having a hideous, frizzy, looked like a boy hair day in the 80’s. My mom who was big on understanding the ordeals of vanity, to my relief agreed to keep me home from school that day. But instead of having my sister on my side, she reminded my mother that beauty is skin deep and that she should not encourage the importance of outward appearance. She tapped in to that motherly guilt. Nitza one, Elke zero. To my dismay, I was sent to school.
For all you here that have siblings I’m sure you can relate. As a kid though, I was torn between needing that sisterly bond with this adult woman, and just viewing her as another parental figure. And she was equally as torn. But despite this, I carry with me the fondest of memories of my sister. She meticulously put my hair up in rollers for my 4th birthday. She took me on my first pony ride when I was 6. She gave me my first lessons in playing handball when I was 9. She’d take me with her roller skating to the rink when I was 11. She taught me the intricacies of tanning when I was 12. She took me to a Menudo concert when I was 13 (I guess to make up for the hideous hair day ordeal). She’d badger me with boy questions when I was in HS. She gave birth to my beautiful niece when I was 15 (yes, I took that as a personal gift to me). She gave me advice for my “first time” to drink some champagne to help me relax. When she found out I got plastered and sadly couldn’t do anything that evening because the room was spinning so badly, she laughed at me, and told me “I said SOME champagne tonta, not the whole bottle!” then gave me a hug.
And with all the beautiful, funny memories also came the arguments, the difficult times and the sad moments in life as I seemingly caught up to her. We were now two adults and both moms, with still a 19-year age gap. We always butted heads. We never let the other win an argument. She complained a lot, and I rolled my eyes a lot. I’d stand my ground and she’d get frustrated. She over shared and I under shared. But again, despite all this push and pull, when I needed an ally I knew that Nitza would be ready and willing to fit that role.
She longed to listen, and did. She longed to be the shoulder I needed to cry on, and was. She greeted me with open arms whenever I’d have a shift in life or beliefs. We were the epitome of two sisters always trying to fit a traditional role knowing there was nothing normal about either of us.
And that’s what I hold closest to me about my sister. She was different. She was a lot of woman, a lot of person. She would laugh and dance and sing; and use that very same moment to be emotional, deep and reflective. You never knew what Nitza you were going to get at any given moment. She didn’t have to fit in to any expectations except her own. She was loving and strong, she was sympathetic and bad-ass, she was independent and needing of others. She was both the ying and the yang, the black and the white, the ups and the downs. And for some people, THAT may have been too much,, SHE may have been too much, I get it. But to the women in my family, to my sister, that was and IS our normal.
My sister was and will forever be loved. People may think that not seeing eye to eye, or arguing on mostly any topic can compromise one’s love. But not when true love is involved. I have true love for this woman. And it pains me that I won’t be able to argue with her again. I won’t be able to tell her “I told you so”…again. I won’t be able to remind her that it doesn’t matter that I’m the younger one. I will have to dig inward to feel her, to hear her and to smell her scent. I will miss my dear sis dearly. But what keeps me going is that I am forever bonded to her even in this new stage of our lives. Yes, our new stage, because that’s what keeps us unconventional folks going.
So, I want to leave you with this. I don’t want people to remember Nitza in her finest days, or just in her younger vibrant years because that would mean her life stopped way before it physically did. I want you to remember my sister even at her worst. Nitza suffered from depression since childhood, and yet she never allowed it to stop her. She loved being out and about. She loved nature and sports. She loved dancing. She loved life. In her last three years, she struggled until the end. She wasn’t ready to go. These last three years of struggle NEED to mean something. What would my sister want you to learn from her early deterioration? That you need to dream NOW, act Now, make it happen NOW. Do something you love. Spend time with those that you love. Try something new. Do something scary. And be kind to others and especially to yourself. And in that way, you make my sisters unconventional story part of your history and wonderfully, also part of your future.
See you in my dreams Sis!
— The Pretty Platform